'The Fatal Denials of Legalism' by Dr Ern Baxter.
Back in March, I wrote a piece entitled; "Grace - the most overused yet abused word in the Christian dictionary". It was inspired by my hatred of legalism. I read that piece on grace and still stand by it. Our doctrines must adorn our name as Terry Virgo once prayed. Do we lay claim to grace? Well let's live worthy of our name. Dr John Piper preached that; "Legalism is a greater menace to the church than alcoholism". Controversial? Well Piper at least deserves a serious hearing.
Whether we agree or disagree, legalism is Public Enemy Number 1 and must be killed so I was encouraged therefore to find this detailed piece in Ern Baxter's exposition of Galatians.
Galatians 1:9: "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed".
1. Legalism Denies the New Life in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me".
- Legalism expects a man to be good of himself.
- Christian life is not a life of mere ethical righteousness, of human goodness or strict morality.
- It is Christ living in the believer!
a) Note Paul. Phil 3:4-6: "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more; circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, persecuting the church, touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless".
- BUT after meeting Christ there came a change!
Phil 3:7-9: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith".
2. Legalism Denies the Sufficiency of the Death of Christ.
Gal 2:21: "I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain".
- If a sinner can become righteous before God by his own good deeds then Christ died in vain.
- Why die to save those who can save themselves?
- Legalism sets aside the grace of God.
3. Legalism Denies the Relationship with and Nearness to God that the Believer Possesses.
Gal 3:25-26: "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus".
- The law brought a distance.
- Shtus God in and shuts man out.
- Man must work himself into the Presence of God.
- Faith is the only way of drawing near to God.
Hebrews 10:19, 22: "Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiness by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith".
4. Legalism Denies the New Creation in Christ Jesus.
Gal 6:14, 15: But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Chrst, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision but a new creation".
- Nothing else avails with God but "a new creation".
- Legalism says fix up the old fellow and you will be okay.
a) The New Life in Christ Jesus is begun in the Spirit.
Gal 3:3: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Having begun in the Spirit are ye now made perfect by the flesh?".
- Received the Spirit by believing God.
- The work was begun by faith.
- Can the ambitious flesh finish it? No!
b) The Spirit is the Secret of Victory over the Flesh.
Gal 5:16: "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh".
- Not a case of pampering the flesh but of walking in the Spirit.
- The "flesh lusteth against the Spirit".
- The Law is not for the New Creation.
- By recognising the Law as a rule for living one falls from grace and comes under the law.
Gal 5:18: "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law".
c) Spirit is the Power of the Believers Hope of Righteousness.
Gal 5:5: "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness".
- Flesh gives no confidence.
- Indwelling Spirit gives and brings assurance.
- Legalist can have no certainity or assurance.
- The Law has no power to compel the flesh to obey and abstain from evil.
- No power in man to make the flesh obey the Law of God.
- The new life in Christ loves to obey.
- Legality is a deadly foe and hateful to God.